With Julia Stiles signed for only one season, there was no doubt Lumen Pierce won’t return for season 6. The only question was: how would the writers dispatch her in the season finale?
To my thinking, the obvious solution was to kill her. That would not only remove her, but do so in a potentially dramatic fashion with severe ramifications for Dexter transitioning into season 6.
Alas, killing Lumen was too obvious and Dexter’s writers have proven adept throughout the show’s run at subverting expectations. With that being the case, Lumen survived season 5’s conclusion.
Allowing the character to live, however, created a new problem. The fact that Lumen the character lived doesn’t change the fact that Stiles the actress won’t be returning. Thus, one way or another, the character had to go.
Jordan Chase’s death, on the other hand, came as no surprise. His fate, in fact, seemed a foregone conclusion—much as Lumen’s initially did (in truth, I mildly expected/hoped the writers might allow Chase to escape). Thus, Dexter’s pursuit of Chase in the finale feels, largely, like narrative time killing. That fact also makes Chase’s death—which came at Lumen’s hand—feel anticlimactic. The twist—and, more importantly, the contradiction—is that, the day after Chase’s murder, after a good night’s sleep, Lumen awakes to find her dark passenger vanished.
With the last of her tormentors dead, she suddenly no longer feels the need to kill. Worse, she intuitively understands she’s no longer compatible with Dexter; she has to leave. After a bit of hand-wringing and plate breaking, Dexter accepts the fact he can’t make her stay. He also understands that his darkness will never vanish and so promises to always carry Lumen’s with him forever. Although it’s an oddly poignant, darkly romantic parting, it nonetheless feels clipped and far too sudden.
Moreover, throughout season 5, we’ve watched Lumen, under Dexter’s patient, loving tutelage, transform from brutalized victim into knife-wielding, vengeance-seeking vigilante serial murderer. Lumen’s very DNA, according to one of actor Michael C. Hall’s season 5 voiceovers, has been changed by her experiences; to quote Deb: “there’s no coming back from that”—or so you’d think, but Lumen’s sudden release from her dark passenger and exit from the series nullifies much of that.
In any case, Chase has Lumen locked away in his trunk as episode 12 begins and races to the place where his self-help-fueled, voyeuristic, serial-murder career started: The River Jordan Summer Camp, which he purchased after it went bankrupt 20 years before.
After a little legwork and after making a stealthy exit from Stan Liddy’s murder scene (via a stolen car), Dexter tracks Jordan and Lumen to the camp, where, not unexpectedly, Chase lays in ambush.
The confrontation there between Chase and Dexter plays out mostly as expected, with Chase, at long last, ending on the killing table; it’s an impromptu killing table, to be sure, with Dexter’s signature plastic sheeting replaced with makeshift straps cobbled together from the camp. Dexter doesn’t do the killing, though, but defers to Lumen, who stabs the knife home unceremoniously while Chase is still rambling in semi-psychotic self-help speak. “I’m sorry,” she says to Dexter immediately afterward, “I know that’s not how you’re supposed to do it.”
“No, he [Chase ]was right about that part,” Dexter says, referring to Chase’s deranged ramblings before the knife plunged home, “There is no polite way [to commit these murders].”
Chase’s murder is followed by one of Dexter’s all-time most contrived encounters. Deb, following a tip from a street vendor that encountered Chase in his car earlier in the episode (with Lumen screaming and kicking in the trunk), tracks Chase—and, consequently, Dexter and Lumen—to the summer camp. There she walks in on Dexter and Lumen as they’re cleaning the crime scene. In fact, she runs into Chase’s body, still strapped to its wheeled killing table, blood pooling beneath.
Sounds juicy, no? Like a development we’ve waited 5 seasons for, right? There’s a catch, of course; Deb is separated from the murderous couple by a wall of opaque sheeting; although she can see two figures and discern their movements, she can’t possibly discern their identities—not without walking past the sheeting.
Deb—herself haunted by her ordeal as a victim of the Ice Truck Killer in season 1—stands behind the sheeting, gun aimed at the couple, Chase’s body beside her, watching them and telling “victim 13” how she can relate to her ordeal and “blah, blah, blah.” It all amounts to much ado about nothing and to one very sizable tease. It seriously stretches the boundaries of credibility, too.
How many detectives, in that position, faced with a huge homicide arrest, would simply let the perps go? In the least, curiosity alone would motivate any decent detective (and Deb’s a very good detective) to make visual contact on the perps. But, owing to her empathy with “victim 13,” and a newfound perspective on vigilante justice, Deb tells the pair the camp will shortly be swarming with cops; “If I were you,” she warns, “I’d be gone by then.” She never looks at their faces. Frankly, Dexter’s writers and producers should be ashamed for such a merciless, illogical tease.
Elsewhere in the finale, Quinn’s in deep doo doo following the discovery of Stan Liddy’s body. When Laguerta and Batista and his team arrive on scene, Laguerta discovers the blood that dripped onto Quinn’s boots last week when he, unknowingly, stood outside Liddy’s van while Dexter murdered him. Quinn didn’t know the blood was there until Laguerta’s discovery, but he refuses to cooperate with the investigation or to divulge the details of his association with Liddy.
Fortunately for Quinn, Dexter’s assigned to run the DNA analysis on that blood and thus, although the blood indeed belonged to Liddy, the results come back negative. Quinn is indebted to Dexter, telling Dexter that he “owes him one.” But Dexter brushes aside the gratitude. “Just doing my job,” he tells Quinn at son Harrison’s 1-year-old birthday party at the episode’s conclusion; most importantly, he admits no impropriety.
Dexter, of course, didn’t botch the results for Quinn’s sake, but rather, for Deb’s love of the big lout and to avoid a nasty investigation that would arise were Quinn fingered for Liddy’s murder. Quinn’s gratitude may well prove advantageous for Dexter in season 6, too; will Dexter call Quinn on that favor? On the other hand, Quinn now knows beyond doubt that Dexter’s dirty; that fact could well lead to season 6 complications for our heroic serial murderer.
All in all, in terms of dramatic/emotional impact, this finale was more in line with Dexter’s previous finales—season 4 notwithstanding. Season 4’s finale offered an emotional punch rarely achieved on TV; expecting this finale or any other to live up to that standard borders on unrealistic. With that in mind, The Big One was an entertaining, if inevitably disappointing follow up to last season. Still, I’ll take Dexter over most current TV dramas any night.
I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that season 4’s climax might, in seasons to come, ultimately prove Dexter’s peak. That’s not to say the series has ‘jumped the shark,’ but unless the writers can come up with innovative new angles from which to approach the story, I can see the series beginning to decline with season 6. Having Deb learn Dexter’s secret might’ve been a nice start.
Dexter the character seems to have reached an emotional equilibrium as The Big One concludes; in other words, he’s largely back to the Dexter we knew before Rita’s tragic death. With that being the case, there’s serious potential for the series to begin repeating itself.
On the upside, there’s a nice moment in the closing minutes between Dexter and stepdaughter Astor. It seems Astor’s ready to begin repairing her relationship with Dexter and forgiving her stepfather for the death of her mother; in fact, she and her brother Cody plan to spend the whole summer living with Dexter.
In the books upon which Dexter’s based, Astor not only forges a close bond with Dexter but also harbors her own dark passenger and becomes Dexter’s protégé in vigilante murder; that would indeed be a bold, innovative direction for the show’s writers to take. Here’s hoping they don’t shy away from such risky plot intrigues as Dexter heads for its sixth stanza in September 2011.